You know you want to book a cruise, but with only a limited amount of vacation time available, when is the best time to arrange your cruise getaway? The answer is not always easy and everyone’s idea for the best time to cruise can vary. If you plan your time well, however, you’ll be sure to have a great cruise no matter when you set sail.
Why Are You Cruising?
The first consideration to make when choosing the time for your cruise is why you want to take a cruise at all. If you are planning to celebrate a special occasion while on board, for example – a birthday, anniversary, retirement, honeymoon or any special holiday – the date of that occasion will influence when it is best for you to cruise. Also consider, however, that you may prefer to spend the actual special day with family members or friends on land, and setting sail at a different time can help prolong the celebration.
Similarly, if there is something specific you hope to do on your cruise, you will need to plan your sailing dates accordingly. Certain shore tours, such as whale watching excursions or wine-making with grape stomps, are only available at specific times of year. If you have always dreamed of trying those activities, you will need to plan your cruise for a time when you can take advantage of the opportunity to do them.
Where Do You Want to Cruise?
When you start planning your cruise, consider where you want to sail. While many popular cruise areas such as the Caribbean, the Bahamas, the Mediterranean and the Mexican Riviera have sailings year-round, other destinations only have a limited cruise season. Alaska, northern Europe and Bermuda are all relatively limited for the best times to cruise, as are European river cruises. If these more limited destinations are your dream cruise destination, the best time to take a cruise will be when those ports of call are most available.
Cruise When Your Budget Permits
If your budget is tight when you are planning your cruise, that can also affect the best time for you to set sail. Certain times of year are low seasons for cruise vacations, and during those times, fares can be significantly cheaper – even hundreds of dollars less for the same cabin on the same itinerary. In general, mid-winter cruises in January and early February, as well as late spring and early fall, are less expensive times to take a cruise, while the summer months, major school breaks and significant holidays are much more costly. The more money you save on when you take a cruise, the bigger your budget will be for shore tours, souvenir photos, dinner reservations, cocktails, spa treatments and more.
Be Aware of the Weather
The weather can play a factor in the best time to cruise. While there can be bad weather at any time and there is always plenty to do onboard in case of inclement weather, if you’re sensitive to the motion of the ship you may want to avoid any risk of rough seas. Hurricane season in the Caribbean runs from June 1 through November 30, with the greatest number of storms historically occurring from mid-August through late October. Likewise if you’re cruising to Alaska, you may want to avoid early or late in the cruising season when the weather can be much cooler and more unpredictable.
Also consider the potential weather at your destination and ports of call, especially if there are certain activities you enjoy. If you prefer a day of active outdoor excursions or wandering around to different shops while the ship is docked, visiting during the hottest part of the year or at the peak of the rainy season will not be ideal.
Of course, you may just want to avoid your weather at home – cruising at the peak of summer can take you from the sweltering temperatures of inland cities to the balmy breezes of the sea, while visiting popular cruise destinations in winter can be a welcome break from snow and blizzards.
What Type of Company Do You Want Onboard?
Considering the type of passengers you prefer to cruise with can help you choose the best time for your cruise. For example, if you want to take a family vacation and hope your children or grandchildren will have company in the ship’s youth programs, a cruise during the summer or when schools are on break is best. If you’d rather have a more mature range of passengers with fewer kids on board, cruising when schools are in session or opting for a longer itinerary is ideal. On the other hand, if you prefer the party crowd with more rambunctious shipmates to liven up karaoke and poolside fun, you’ll want to consider shorter weekend cruises or opt for spring break periods when greater numbers of young professionals and college students are likely to be on board.
There Is No Bad Time to Take a Cruise!
In the end, there is no terrible time for a cruise. No matter when you set sail, you will be treated to an amazing experience that includes attentive service, exquisite food, fun entertainment, stunning ports of call and a range of great activities to enjoy. Doing your research beforehand can help you choose the very best time to take advantage of everything you want from your cruise vacation.